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Airline Travel and Guitars

Written by Bill on May 13, 2011 – 10:38 am -

So you’re heading to a destination and want to bring your guitar on the airline flight.  We’ve all heard the horror stories ranging from complete and utter guitar annihilation to theft, but there are some secrets to ensure that your prized possession gets off the plane in one piece.  First of all you want to take pictures of the guitar along with any gear you’re bringing.  Write down make and models along with serial numbers.  Put all that data on a memory stick and keep it with you.  In the event of a problem, you have detailed information to give to the airline.

TSA polices and procedures differ from that of airlines.  Print a copy of this letter TSA Carry On letter  Carry one with you and keep another in your guitar case.  If confronted by a TSA agent that says you can’t bring your guitar, smile and show them the letter!

Now you’re through TSA and you’re waiting at the gate.  Two things can happen.  If flight attendant at the ticket counter is having a good day you might get lucky and be able to get the guitar on the plane in the over-head storage area.  If this is you, stop reading and enjoy your vacation.

If not, you’ll be told that the guitar will be tagging and ‘gate checked’ which means you’ll walk down to the plane door and set it with the strollers and wheelchairs.  An baggage attendant will hand-carry it down to the cargo hold.  This is WAY BETTER than checking the guitar curbside!  Don’t ever do it!  Make sure to note that here are two colors of tags, yellow and pink.  Make sure to ask which color designates that the guitar will be brought back up with the stollers and wheelchairs once you reach your destination.  If you get the other color it will go through regular baggage.

Some people loosen strings, some do not.  As long as the guitar is firmly seated in the case and does not move, you should be fine.  I tend to stuff a sock around the headstock of the guitar.  Some debate that if the guitar is in the unpressurized baggage area under string tension, it can suffer.  If I have to check the guitar in the cargo area and not in the plane with me, I will loosen the strings.  The important thing to remember is to not open the case right after getting off the plane.  Let it aclimate for about an hour before opening the case.

Following these simply steps can really reduce the stress level for you while flying.  Good luck and happy vacation!


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